Three Ways to Die in Yellowstone

The darker side of our first national park.

“Old Faithful:” Yellowstone’s most well-known geiser.

Yellowstone National Park, which happens to be the first national park (consisting mostly in Wyoming), is an amazing site, but also very dangerous. Yellowstone has had over 20 people die and many more severely injured. This national park is very strict with rules, especially with the famous hot springs and Geysers.

Thermal Pond

There have been many deaths and injuries with hot springs over the 146 years that Yellowstone has been a national park. Miyeko Inafuku (A park ranger who has worked at the park for nine years) says, “The most common injury is when people stick their hands in the thermal geysers.” On a different note, before there was more than one sign and before there were boardwalks, sad to say, people would jump head first into the hot springs. According to the book “Death in Yellowstone”, (author lee Whittlesey) in 1981 Ronald Ratcliff jumped into a hot spring to save his dog. He later experienced 3rd degree burns all over his body and died the following morning. Many incidents such as this have happened throughout Yellowstone’s history.

Upper Yellowstone Falls

The next topic is hypothermia and drowning, which according to Inafuku is one of the more common ways to die at the national park. She says, “Many people drown from being in the water unsafely.” And, “We’ve had to rescue a few people who have gotten hypothermia from hiking in the mountains.” She also says that some people get hypothermia from swimming in way too cold water, then they drown. This has happened several times during her time here.


North American Bison

Another big one is wildlife. According to the same book people used to place their children on bears for pictures. They didn’t understand that even if it was a “park” the animals weren’t tame. The book states that it is a myth that if the animals were dangerous they would be fenced off. Inafuku says that, “just this year there have been two injuries due to a bison charge and an elk charge.” She also says that if the wildlife gets too used to humans then we react in a way they don’t like, they may charge or attack. People also used to feed them or try to pet them and sometime the wildlife, whatever it may be, attacks or charges.

Yellowstone is a wonderful place to visit, and even if it is dangerous, if you follow the rules you can have a blast!